Every city dweller probably for more or less shoulders all kinds of stresses and pressures in life, work and family, football superstars on the fields equally have to face a lot of pressure. In face of that, how do you achieve ‘You’ll never walk alone’? As the official principal partner of Liverpool FC, AXA has invited two football stars from the Liverpool Football Club: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joël Matip to share with us how they manage stress, and turn it into motivation on the pitch.
The greatest source of stress for footballers? Uncertainties of the unknown
Being watched every day by your boss over your work progress will probably leave you nervously catching your breath, let alone playing football in front of tens of millions of Liverpool FC fans around the world every week.
To Oxlade-Chamberlain, those injuries that can come any time on the pitch beyond his control is what frustrates him above all. ‘Injury, picking up another bad injury at the start of the season and that's a stressful moment again.’
Matip feels the same. ‘You always want to get fit. But these things take their time. You cannot really rush them, even if you want to go quicker, your body gives you the pace that you have to follow. And of course you always question yourself and you always want to come back and you just have to wait.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain: Find your own space to kick away stress
Like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Matip, many of you probably face many fears brought by ‘unknowns’. For instance, whether your work report makes your boss happy? Sudden overtime work? Or whether your kids can still remember tomorrow what you have taught them today?
In face of pressures that come in shapes and forms. Oxlade-Chamberlain believes no matter how busy you are, it is vital to remember to ‘switch off’, and find a space that belongs to you, so you can isolate completely from stress.‘Finding that balance where when you can let your hair down and relax, play golf, or go see your friends, go out for coffee, whatever it is that I need to make sure that I do that.’
Matip shares the same view. ‘Not everything is about football, even if I love football. And when I'm here, my head is only about football. But at home, I try to relax, and yes, try not to think too much about football.’
Matip: Learn to embrace the worst
From Matip’s point of view, stress is like a double-edged sword sometimes. An appropriate amount of stress can make you improve, but when you don’t know how to deal with it, it will affect your performance at work, and even strain your relationships with others. ‘The big thing for us is you have a good game, you feel great and you go home in a good mood and you know, you're nice to everyone and no one can annoy you because you've got more tolerance. You have a bad game and that changes .’
Matip reminds us that it is normal to feel stressed, as life is not all plain sailing. When faced with adversities, we should learn to embrace them. ‘I think you don't have to be optimistic all the time … There are some bad times … it cannot be always sunshine.’ So as long as we can face those bad moments with courage, we will be able to seize the opportunity and enjoy the good times. ‘So you really enjoy the moments when you're on the field, when you can train, when you can play, that's like you really like to appreciate these kinds of moments more.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain also believes having a positive attitude to deal with pressure is key. ‘At some point you need to have to do horrible work that you don't want to do to achieve your goals. And when you're in a better mental space, it's easier to go and do the things you need to do that you don't necessarily want to have to do.’
The best secret to destress: With the help of family and friends, you never walk alone!
Apart from embracing stress in a positive way, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Matip, as members of the Liverpool Football Club, both believe the Club’s decades-long motto ‘You’ll never walk alone’ is what sustains them best against tremendous pressures.
When asked what is their strongest backup that supports them, they both answered at once, their family and friends. Oxlade-Chamberlain says those who deal with you straight and tell you the truth are people you need the most around you. ‘If I have a good game, they're honest with me … And even when you have the bad games. Hey, you had a bad game, right? What are you going to do about it? How can I help you? and just be honest with you.’
Matip also thinks having a family and friends that he can rely on is crucial to him. ‘Even if you don't ask, they're always there because I never have to ask for help, that’s a big relief.’
Remember, pressure does not discriminate and everyone is equal in face of that. You’ll never walk alone! It will never be just you in the world facing the pressure alone, open your heart more to family and friends around you, and at the same time remember to support and care for them more, and be the best support systems for each other. Kick away stress together!
The above content is reviewed by Dr Alexander Chiu - Medical Director, Health and Employee Benefits of AXA Hong Kong and Macau
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